The pharmaceutical industry is seizing the moment to both help lift society out of the pandemic and rebuild its own reputation. The clock is ticking. By Brunswick’s Ben Hirschler and Jeremy Ruch.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a make or break moment for the pharmaceuticals industry. Around the world, billions of people are living in hope of a vaccine or cure, and entire stock markets are swinging on read-outs from clinical trials.
The potential for drug companies to throw a lifeline to a sick world has sent corporate purpose soaring to the top of the boardroom agenda—and drug development is in the spotlight in a way it has not been since the early days of HIV/AIDS.
With drug companies investing billions of dollars in COVID-19 research and executives marshaling their best scientists to try and outwit the virus, the pharmaceutical sector now has a huge opportunity—and a huge challenge—to prove its value to society. In the words of Eli Lilly CEO David Ricks, the pandemic represents a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset the reputation of the industry.”
While academic and government labs will play an important role in the fight, it is only the world’s large drug companies that possess the infrastructure, production capacity and know-how to develop and manufacture the necessary drugs and vaccines at scale. However the recognition that multiple companies—ranging in size from industry giants to small biotechnology outfits—are working flat out to roll back the greatest health crisis in more than a century is already changing perceptions across the board.
A Brunswick Insight survey of more than 600 opinion leaders who follow healthcare in the UK, the US and China shows how the sector has enjoyed a significant reputational boost. In the results from Britain and America, those who saw a more positive impact from recent events topped those who saw a more negative impact by 30 points. In China, that spread has historically been even larger, and currently stands at more than 80 points. Other Brunswick research among informed consumers in the UK and the US also reveals reputational gains for pharmaceutical companies. Around two-thirds of informed consumers now have a positive view of drug makers, compared with well under half in 2018. Significantly, throughout the research, Chinese respondents proved to be considerably more positive towards companies and more optimistic about progress on COVID-19.